Archive for the ‘Corporatism’ Category
Well well Liberal America, who loves Apple and their products so much, how do you justify this?
Apple Inc. (AAPL) has set up corporate structures that have allowed it to pay little or no corporate tax — in any country — on much of its overseas income, according to the findings of a U.S. Senate examination released Monday evening.
The unusual result is possible because the iPhone maker’s key foreign subsidiaries argue they are residents of nowhere, according to the investigator’ report, which will be discussed at a hearing Tuesday where Apple CEO Tim Cook will testify.
This is amusing, really.
What’s happened here is that Apple has created subsidiaries that have no tax home at all.
Effectively what is going on is that Apple has created corporate entities that have no ”citizenship”; they are thus exempt from tax in any jurisdiction when it comes to those entities.
This is not technically illegal, but it is exactly the sort of scheming that our legal environment and tax environment has encouraged. Apple, incidentally, is nowhere near the only firm doing this but it happens to be one of, if not, the largest.
Tax avoidance is not illegal. Evasion is. But you, as a natural person, cannot declare yourself (or any part of yourself) a taxable citizen of nowhere.
But this is exactly what big corporations like Apple have done through legal machinations. It’s wrong, not because Apple is doing it but because you can’t.
It’s that simple folks.
This is what happens when you set up a tax code that is outageously complex and full of special privileges granted to certain organizations that lobby for those privileges that apply only to them. Corporations get their best return on investment by “lobbying” Congress, which really ought to be called bribery (or even blackmail), because effectively (although not “legally”) that’s exactly what it is.
You, as an ordinary citizen, get no such special treatment.
This isn’t limited to big multinational corporations and the Federal Government either. We have set up “enterprise zones” locally that are exempt or otherwise are privileged in tax status for certain “special” companies; this happens all the time when state and local governments lure manufacturers and other businesses to an area, always backed by the claim that they will “create jobs” and “help the economy.” What they actually do is shift the increased cost of government services that come with increased business and personal presence onto you while they pocket the difference.
This crap must stop.
Americans need to stop believing that legislation passed in the name of the ‘greater good’ really is based on any such concept. The truth of the matter is, we are ruled by special interests and political agendas. The vast majority of legislation isn’t written by our respective Members of Congress, but rather they are dictated by any myriad of special interest groups, which are doing nothing but advancing their agendas.
James Buchanan, a Star Economist Who Understood Obamacare
It is sad, but telling, that the economist James Buchanan died just as Congress was finishing up the details of its budget deal. Or, for that matter, that this 93-year-old Nobel Memorial Prize winner left us just as the U.S. entered the stage of enforcement of its new health-care law.
Almost everyone involved in the budget deal agrees that it is more a product of interest groups than a principled construct. The same can be said for Obamacare.
More than any of the rest of America’s great modern economists, Buchanan stressed the primacy of interest groups. Interest groups, he said, rather than ideas or even men, shape our modern political and economic life. High-minded politicians might speak of “the public interest,” and claim a special authority over the rest for their work. As Buchanan and his colleagues showed, a public interest is often just another special interest in disguise.
The economic school he founded, known as public-choice theory, casts a skeptical eye on government officials and bureaucrats and points out that their work might serve the public less than a very private enterprise.
I have always wondered whether Buchanan turned to the study of sanctimonious government officials and their interests because he spent time in graduate school on the South Side of Chicago in the late 1940s (the neighborhood where I was later born). Hyde Park was lively, but uneven. Little shops along 55th Street, just north of the university, might thrive, but poor black migrants crowded together in apartments with insufficient heat during the city’s tough winters.
Buchanan earned his doctorate in 1948, about the time the politicians and other civic leaders promised that bulldozing large swaths of the neighborhood and creating new public-private projects would yield a better Hyde Park, prettier and more racially integrated.
But the result felt wrong, especially to residents. The new apartment buildings, in the minimalist international style, themselves felt as cold as winter. Instead of bringing people together, they separated them: One complex quickly became known as Monoxide Island. With the stores gone, there was less life on the streets. Yet Hyde Park locals lacked the vocabulary to criticize the transformation we had been told was progress or reform. Who wants to be construed as “pro-slum”?
Buchanan supplied that vocabulary. Instead of calling urban renewal “reform,” as the officials did, he called it “politics.” It was important, he said, that all such projects, whether urban renewal in Chicago or elsewhere, be viewed honestly, that we look at “politics without romance.”
The housing redevelopment in Hyde Park worked to the advantage of certain interest groups, political or business. Yet the high-and-mighty tone of the anti-slum language masked something. No party involved was any better or any worse than anyone else: They were all pursuing their own interests. Politicians often promoted such ugly ambitious projects not because the projects were good. They did so because the projects enabled politicians to award contracts to important campaign donors.
Buchanan spent his early years as a professional in the days of high economics, when math and Keynesianism were celebrated. No one challenged economists. They represented another kind of virtue, that of the intellectual. Buchanan was different. He challenged his fellow scholars the same way one challenged politicians.
One should force them to realize their economics might possibly be serving as window dressing for a political agenda: “What model of politics are you assuming before you start talking about what’s good taxation? What’s good spending? I called for them to clarify their assumptions of politics,” he later explained in an interview with the Minneapolis Federal Reserve Bank.
Nothing outrages the sanctimonious more than being unmasked as just as greedy as the rest. At the University of Virginia, where he later taught, Buchanan’s frank analysis irked colleagues. A paper commenting on the squabbles noted that the university perhaps thought Buchanan’s unromantic view of political reforms might not fit in at Virginia, which “with itsties to the Kennedy family, has been close to the liberal establishment.”
Buchanan’s common sense conflicted with the self- righteousness of the Kennedys. Virginia could not stand it. The professor moved on.
I first encountered Buchanan’s work when I asked him in a phone interview whether “pro-business” tax breaks were actually good for the economy. He took much time pointing out that Big Business wasn’t the same as the free market. Buchanan had spent a year studying in Italy and looking at the work of left-leaning economists, indeed some Marxists, who criticized the corruption of Italy’s republic before Benito Mussolini.
He faxed me, for those were the days of the fax, dozens of pages of the work of Amilcare Puviani, an Italian scholar. The pages were in Italian and curled up on my desk unread. Buchanan, who was already a Nobel laureate, didn’t relent: He translated over the phone for me. The main idea he conveyed was that hidden taxes served a pernicious purpose: They tricked taxpayers into thinking they were paying less than they did, and therefore also thinking that government could spend more and tax more.
I soon found that public-choice theory explained everything: Parkinson’s Law, the tendency of bureaucracy to create more work for itself. Health officials’ interests in testing small children’s blood for lead made sense when one considered that finding poisoned children validated their jobs.
Those of us who had the luck to know Buchanan will remember his generosity. He exposed arrogance, while eschewing it himself. He was a paradox: The man who studied selfish interests also sacrificed his own.
Amity Shales - Bloomberg
(Amity Shlaes is a Bloomberg View columnist and the director of the Four Percent Growth Project at the Bush Institute. Her biography “Coolidge” will be published in February. The opinions expressed are her own.)
To contact the writer of this article: Amity Shlaes at email@example.com
Our government shouldn’t make us “donate” billions in corporate welfare to businesses each year. Visit http://www.CronyChronicles.org to learn more.
What’s A Crony?
In an economically free society, the role of business is to create value for society by producing products and services that their customers consider beneficial. If they do this while using resources wisely, they make a profit, and societal well being is enhanced.
Cronyism diverts resources away from the wants and needs of consumers and toward political purposes. Cronyism occurs when an individual or organization colludes with government officials to create unfair legislation and/or regulations which give them forced benefits they could not have otherwise obtained voluntarily. Those benefits come at the expense of consumers, taxpayers, and everyone working hard to compete in the marketplace.
H.L. Mencken famously coined the term “boobeoisie” to characterize the gullibility of American voters. That’s probably unfair to regular people who — at least in our Founder’s vision — shouldn’t be required to focus very much on politics and government.
But the term may capture the attitude of many politicians who are all too willing the exploit the “rational ignorance” of the average voter.
A prime example is legislation to exempt from sales tax the value of a used car that is traded in on a new car purchase. Like daisies in the spring, this measure is introduced in every new Legislature, and having gone nowhere, expires with the final adjournment of each. But that doesn’t prevent the politicians from boasting about how admirable they are for just having the notion.
This year, however, they took the game to new heights of cynicism. Five weeks before all the Michigan House politicians not being involuntarily retired by term limits were up for re-election, the body passed the latest iteration of a false promise that has been introduced around 25 times over the past decade. By an amazing coincidence, last May the Senate had passed their own version of the same proposal. The bills offered the prospect of a substantial tax cut — around $220 million annually according to the House Fiscal Agency.
And yet, despite all the political speeches and legislator newsletters describing how great this would be — and what a fine fellow the particular politician was for supporting it — somehow the two bodies never quite got around to passing the other’s bill.
In fact, final passage was extremely unlikely for the same reason this proposal has gone nowhere in previous Legislatures: It would require a correspondingly large cut in spending, which would anger the particular special interests whose ox would have been gored.
Most politicians of both parties hate inciting special interests almost as much as they fear angering voters with tax hikes, so all these bills have been essentially stillborn from the day they were hatched.
In most years, the “sales tax on the difference” measure never even gets a committee hearing, but when it does the same scene is replayed: Agents of the Department of Treasury testify that lawmakers better start looking for $220 million in spending cuts to offset the foregone revenue. That shuts up the pols right quick, and puts the kibosh on the bill’s further advancement.
Indeed, just once before during the past 12 years has one of these bills received a floor vote (it passed 30-7), and that time it was the Republican Senate cooking up the candy, relying on a Democratic governor and House majority to play goalkeeper. They did, saving the Senators from having to identify which special interests to anger.
Of course I can’t prove that the politicians are acting in such a cynical, manipulative fashion — a bipartisan rule of omerta (silence) prohibits members of the political class from revealing their tricks. Ask almost any of the 106 bipartisan House “yes” voters (out of 110), or the 37 in the Senate (out of 38), and he or she will swear on a stack of State Constitutions that this vote was perfectly sincere. Perhaps some even were sincere.
So CapCon asked some experienced Senate staffers. Our “it’s just a game” thesis was regarded as essentially correct, but Senate staffers can’t prove it either. Who knows what cynicism lurks in the hearts of politicians?
To his credit, one former Democratic Senator, Mickey Swiatalski, did commit something close to candor the last time this proposal got a vote, in 2009. You can read his “no vote explanation” on MichiganVotes.org, here.
All this isn’t (just) a snark, it’s also a warning: Watch what they do (in CapCon and MichiganVotes.org), not what they say. In almost every case, when a politician boasts about a bill he has introduced, he’s just serving-up “candy,” knowing full well the measure isn’t going anywhere.
Jack McHugh – Michigan Capitol Confidential
I talk to many people on a daily basis about what is happening around us in this country. These people are conservative, liberal and anywhere in between. Many state they are ‘independent’ of political affiliation. However, many others are trapped in imposed partisan politics. I find that these people, no matter how much they understand a point or agree on the subject matter, will still fall back on their political Party rhetoric and talking points. This prevents us from coming together to fight the real enemy, and that enemy has become the corruption in government itself. This political Party addiction keeps us busy bickering amongst ourselves, often times even when we agree, because many people find it impossible to get past the partisan conditioning.
This is very much like being in an abusive relationship. It’s a political abusive relationship.
How many of you have ever been in an abusive relationship?
Do you currently adhere to a political party — more than just voting, but actually adhering to one? You know what I’m talking about — phone banking, making and distributing signs, public advocacy, maybe even more. Maybe you’re a precinct captain, one of the folks who “runs” a county-level political organization, or perhaps you’re involved at the state or even national levels.
If so, have you ever stopped to consider whether or not you’re actually part of an abusive relationship?
What defines an abusive relationship?
And the lies that go with it.
Let me guess — you’re going to tell me that you believe that your relationship with your political party embodies what you believe in and how you live. That it embodies your values, your core expectations, and what you want from government.
Are you being honest with yourself or are you practicing co-dependency?
If we ever hope to move past the corruption, misrepresentation and outright fraud of our current government structure, people’s blind devotion to Party politics must end.
A great example of what I’m talking about here happened relatively recently with the United States Supreme Court opinion issued in the case Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission 558 U.S. 310 (2010). Almost immediately people lined up along Party lines with their opinions on this decision. The Democrats/liberals decried this as a victory for corporate personhood and blamed the alleged ‘conservative makeup’ of the Supreme Court. Even President Obama couldn’t resist taking a dig at the Supreme Court during his State of the Union address, which further cemented this false premise in the minds of the American Public. For their part the Republicans/conservatives didn’t seem to understand the Opinion any better and appeared to be evenly split between agreeing with the Democrats and just plain being confused.
Here’s the problem: Citizens United had absolutely NOTHING to do with ‘corporate personhood.’ It had to do with selective restriction on free speech protected under the 1st Amendment. Citizens United sought to restore a more equal balance between corporate money spent on advertising and the ability of individuals to pool resources to help amplify their voices to the equivalent of what corporate money could do. Citizens United stemmed back to the 2002 Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act (commonly known as the McCain–Feingold Act or “BCRA”), which Citizens United sought to overturn in part. McCain-Feingold was a decision that imposed something completely opposite of its advertised goal. Instead of limiting corporate money in politics, it gave more protection to corporate money at the direct expense of individuals! This was an Act sponsored equally, by Republicans AND Democrats and it was (and still is to some extent) terrible law that infringed on free speech of individuals while protecting the corporate monopoly on political advertising. So what we had here was a united effort between both Parties to give more preference to corporations over individuals by lying to the American people to convince them it was the exact opposite. Abuse? I’d say so. (For future reference, always be skeptical of anything labeled ‘bi-partisan.’ You KNOW it’s not going to be good. They only team up when they really want to defraud the American people.)
Curious. So then we have Citizens United, a case which defended the 1st Amendment for individuals, against a terrible piece of legislation, sponsored by both Democrats and Republicans. Yet all we heard about was how Citizens United was a terrible blow for individuals and a win for corporations. Wait. Wut? Confused yet? Don’t be.
Simply, the Democrats disliked this Opinion because the moving party, Citizens United (the organization) wanted to air an advertisement critical of Hillary Clinton. During the course of the matter winding its way through the courts, the Democrats as a Party, sought to fight the case by tying the widely-despised corporate personhood precedent with the conservatives behind the Hillary Clinton ad. Corporate personhood is something that evokes extremely strong, passionate reactions in people and was a very easy way to coalesce opposition to Citizens United. It was that simple. If the moving party (plaintiff) to this litigation had been a traditional liberal-embraced cause, such as perhaps an environmental group or a civil rights group that wanted to air an advertisement critical of a Republican official, there wouldn’t have been a negative word spoken by Democrats. Likewise though, we all would have been subjected to Republicans trying to fight this case by using the precise tactics that the Democrats did by also tying the case to corporate personhood.
Do you see how this works? They play you. They get you to be unable to move past the partisanship and Party rhetoric to see the REAL issue. The REAL issue here was a severe infringement of individual rights over corporate protections. This should be an issue upon which ALL Americans could easily agree; there was no Party politics involved here other than the ad that the plaintiff wanted to air; the content of said ad was entirely irrelevant to the case. The inability of individuals to compete effectively against corporate money was imposed with McCain-Feingold despite it being widely advertised as being the complete opposite: a protection for individuals against corporations. Everyone bought the lie, and then to make it worse, when the damage was undone, everyone bought the lie that Citizens United was damaging to individuals and re-confirmed corporate personhood.
Just so our readers will NEVER fall for this specific scam again, if you want to see the personhood status of corporations removed, the ONLY way that ever gets done (no matter what anyone tells you), is to bring a case before the Supreme Court to revisit Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad - 118 U.S. 394 (1886) and have it overturned. Yes, corporations were granted personhood back in 1886! It is that old of a precedent. Never in our history has anyone ever attempted to revisit this case, yet we hear about ‘corporate personhood’ frequently.
So here we are. Trapped in our abusive political relationships, which in turn, prevent us from having civil discourse with others of opposing political Parties. Yet, we all complain of similar things on a daily basis: Of the creeping advancement of a too-powerful government and the resulting loss of freedoms. We lament the loss of the rule of law, which is no longer applied equally to everyone, but instead exempts special classes of people, and targets others. Our government ‘representatives’ facilitate this discrimination by catering to the more than 35,000 corporate lobbyists that descend on Washington DC on a daily basis. All three political Parties have failed on an epic scale and have become only about promotion of themselves and their members. So, now that you understand what the results of this abusive relationship with your political Party looks like: What do we do about it?
You can start by reviewing the Federationist Platform. It’s time that the American people had their OWN lobbyists and it is past time to use our government’s biased, preferential laws against them.
Then please vote in our Poll. (registration is free, but required to post and vote)
Many Americans probably think the Dodd-Frank financial reform law will protect taxpayers from future bailouts. Wrong. In fact, Dodd-Frank actually widened the federal safety net for big institutions. Under that law, eight more giants were granted the right to tap the Federal Reserve for funding when the next crisis hits. At the same time, those eight may avoid Dodd-Frank measures that govern how we’re supposed to wind down institutions that get into trouble.
In other words, these lucky eight got the best of both worlds: access to the Fed’s money and no penalty for failure.
Which institutions hit this jackpot? Clearinghouses. These are large, powerful institutions that clear or settle options, bond and derivatives trades. They include the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, the Intercontinental Exchange and the Options Clearing Corporation. All were designated as systemically important financial market utilities under Title VIII of Dodd-Frank. People often refer to these institutions as utilities, but that’s not quite right. Many of these enterprises run lucrative businesses, have shareholders and reward their executives handsomely. Last year, the CME Group, the parent company of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, generated almost $3.3 billion in revenue. Its chief executive, Craig S. Donohue, received $3.9 million in compensation and held an additional $10 million worth of equity awards outstanding, according to the company’s proxy statement.
Make no mistake: these institutions are stretching the federal safety net. The Chicago Merc clears derivatives contracts with a notional value in the trillions of dollars. I.C.E. clears most of the credit default swaps in the United States — billions of dollars a day, on paper. No wonder they are considered major players in our financial system.
But placing them at the bailout trough is wrong, according to Sheila Bair, the former head of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation. In a recently published book, Ms. Bair wrote that top officials at the Treasury and the Fed, over the objections of the F.D.I.C., pushed to gain access for the clearinghouses to Fed lending.
The clearinghouses “were drooling at the prospect of having access to loans from the Fed,” she wrote. “I thought it was a terrible precedent and still do. It was the first time in the history of the Fed that any entity besides an insured bank could borrow from the discount window.” .
“The Treasury’s and the Fed’s reasoning was that since another part of Dodd-Frank was trying to encourage more activity to move to clearinghouses, we should provide some liquidity support to them,” she said in an interview last week. “Our argument back was, if you have an event beyond their control with systemwide consequences, then you have the ability to lend on a generally available basis. What they wanted was the ability to lend to individual clearinghouses.”
The clearinghouses have considerable clout in Washington. From the beginning of 2010 through this year, the CME Group has spent $6 million lobbying, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
Did these players push for special treatment while avoiding other aspects of Dodd-Frank? Representatives of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange and the Options Clearing Corporation say no, noting that access to the Fed meant they would also be overseen by the central bank, in addition to the Securities and Exchange Commission or the Commodities Futures Trading Commission.
But the Fed’s involvement is not likely to be intrusive, because Dodd-Frank directed it to take a back seat to a financial utility’s primary regulator, either the S.E.C. or the C.F.T.C.
The CME said that it did not support Dodd-Frank’s designation of clearinghouses as systemically important, but once it received the designation, it believed the Fed should provide access to emergency lending. The O.C.C. echoed this point.
Whatever the case, the CME Group has argued that it should be exempt from the orderly liquidation authority set up under Dodd-Frank. This authority was designed to unwind complex and interconnected financial firms that could threaten the financial system if they failed. The law appointed the F.D.I.C. as receiver to resolve teetering entities. That authority is supposed to end the problem of institutions that are too big to be allowed to fail and also to hold their managers accountable.
BUT in a letter to the F.D.I.C. a few months after Dodd-Frank became law, the CME Group asked the F.D.I.C. to confirm that the exchange wouldn’t fall under that authority’s jurisdiction. It is not a financial company as defined by the law, the CME contended, and therefore should not be subject to the resolution process.
The F.D.I.C. has not confirmed the C.M.E.’s view on the matter. But it seems to be gaining traction among other regulators. At an Aug. 2012 presentation last August on resolving financial market utilities, Robert S. Steigerwald of the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago noted that it was unclear whether a financial utility such as the Chicago Merc would have to be wound down as required under Dodd-Frank.
So these large and systemically important financial utilities that together trade and clear trillions of dollars in transactions appear to have won the daily double — access to federal money, without the accountability.
“Dodd-Frank should have been all about contracting the safety net,” Ms. Bair said last week. “But this was a huge and unprecedented expansion of the safety net that provided expressed government support for for-profit entities. These financial market utilities are the new government-sponsored enterprises.”
A version of this article appeared in print on November 4, 2012, on page BU1 of the New York edition with the headline: One Safety Net That Needs To Shrink.